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That’s an obvious conclusion to draw from Board 12 at Akarana this week. Of the 11 tables in play, the correct contract was reached only five times and of those five, only two made their contract.

Back in “the good old days”, one could open 2Diamond-small with an “Acol Two”, a strong hand but not strong enough for a game-forcing 2Club-small. There would be hardly anyone opening the West hand below in such a manner, even if you had a strong minor option for your “Multi” 2Diamond-small. (That option tends to be a single-suited hand).  Infrequency ruled out the use of such a strong bid. So, we can either over or under bid one’s hand when opening. Our auction started:

West                                     East                                                        West     North        East    South

Spade-small A7                                      Spade-small KQJ632                                             1Diamond-small          1Heart-small           1Spade-small        Pass

Heart-small 4                                         Heart-small Q852                                             2Club-small1             Pass           2Spade-small       Pass

Diamond-small AKQT74                             Diamond-small 3                                                      ?                                         

Club-small AK42                                  Club-small J9                                                     1 100% forcing, 4+Club-small

At that point, I endeavoured to show partner a good raise to 4Spade-small by bidding 3Heart-small and followed up partner’s 3NT response with 4Spade-small. It was not enough to excite partner and we played unspectacularly in the safe game.

There seemed various options to get us higher. East can bid 5Spade-small over my 4Spade-small, asking me to bid slam with a heart control (can East trust their partner to hold three aces? Probably.). I could have jumped to 5Spade-small over 3NT which would have left East uncertain of the heart situation.  I could also have used key-card after the 2Spade-small bid or I could have splintered 4Heart-small over 2Spade-small allowing partner to use key-card.

Plenty of ways to reach 6Spade-small even without that “strong minor opening”.  Yet, what went wrong to cause three declarers to fail in their slam? All Souths led the Heart-smallJ to their partner’s king. A second high heart gave the declarers a little headache:

Board 12
North Deals
None Vul
9 8
A K 9 7 6
10 8 6 5 3
A 7
A K Q 10 7 4
A K 4 2
W   E
K Q J 6 3 2
Q 8 5 2
J 9
10 5 4
J 10 3
J 8 6 5 2
Q 7


Ruffing high would not have been a good idea had spades broken 4-1 but would have solved all East’s problems here. How to return to hand to draw trumps if you ruffed low? Two top clubs would be fine as long as you ruffed the third one high…was that queen a false-card or a real warning? In theory, with only 6 clubs but 7 diamonds between the two hands, clubs are safer. So much for theory!

It looks also that East will be in difficulty should North return a low club at trick two…and East slots the Club-smallJ. Now, declarer can draw trumps and play three rounds of diamonds, discarding two hearts. He ruffs a low diamond to hand. Yet, East should be fine as these cards remain:

10 8 6
10 7
A 4
W   E
J 6
10 3


As declarer now plays their two trumps and discards dummy’s two diamonds, North is fine for their first discard but finds the second rather unpalatable leaving the Club-small4 as declarer’s likely 12th trick.

Well, that’s what could have happened. Just like with the bidding, there were many ways to make the small spade slam but also some losing options. A board that left all bar two of the East-West pairs with a few thoughts that they should have done something a little differently.

Richard Solomon



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